A pilot scheme that will allow victims and witnesses to give eveidence ahead of criminal trials will not necessarily make the system as child-friendly as it could be, the NSPCC's head of corporate affairs has said. Alan Wardle added:
We welcome the pilot and hope it paves the way for more children to be spared the ordeal of having to give live evidence in court. The pilot will not necessarily make the system as child-friendly as it could be, but is a positive step - offering children the opportunity to give their evidence and be cross examined in advance of the trial and sparing them the often lengthy wait for a court date which can cause unnecessary anxiety.
However, there is still more work to be done to ensure all young witnesses are supported by a justice system that is truly fit for children.
Vulnerable and intimidated witnesses should get specialist help throughout the criminal justice process, the assistant chief executive at Victim Support has said, as a new pilot scheme allowing evidence to be given ahead of criminal trials is due to be rolled out tomorrow. Adam Pemberton added:
We welcome these pilots because repeated, aggressive questioning of vulnerable witnesses in a packed courtroom cannot be the best way to obtain sound and accurate evidence.
Victims and witnesses are entitled to a fair trial as well as defendants and we believe pre-recorded evidence taken in a less intense environment and when events are fresher in the mind will help level the playing field.
People who have experienced or reported horrific crimes should be given the highest possible level of protection and support, the Victims' Minister said, as a new pilot scheme which allows victims and witnesses to give evidence ahead of criminal trials is due to be rolled out.
Following a visit to Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, Damian Green said: "If you have experienced a horrendous crime, giving evidence in the pressured environment of a live courtroom, in front of the jury and the public gallery, can be intimidating and perhaps too much to ask.
"That's why we are trying a new approach, the first of its kind, which prioritises the victim."
A pilot scheme which allows victims and witnesses to give evidence ahead of criminal trials starts tomorrow.
The most vulnerable people involved in the courts process will be able to give their evidence and be cross-examined away from the intense atmosphere of a live courtroom, in an attempt to spare them what could be aggressive questioning in front of jury, judge and their alleged attacker.
The Government is initially trying the new approach in three courts with the aim of rolling it out more widely if successful, the Ministry of Justice said.
As part of the new plans, those aged 70 to 75 who are summoned would be expected to serve as jurors. However, the Juries Act 1974 still provides for discretionary excusal, where it can be shown that there is good reason why someone should be excused from attending.
Jury service is, and remains, a cornerstone of the British justice system laid down in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago. Every year, thousands of people give their time to take part in this vital function.
Our society is changing and it is essential that the criminal justice system moves with the times. This is about harnessing the knowledge and life experiences of a group of people who can offer significant benefits to the court process.
– Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
The Juries Act 1974 states that only those aged 18 to 70 may be summoned to carry out jury service in England and Wales. This age range was last amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which raised the upper limit from 65 to 70.
People up to and including the age of 75 will be able to sit as jurors in England and Wales under a package of reforms to the criminal justice system.
Currently, only people aged 18 to 70 are eligible to sit as jurors.
Between 2005 and 2012, an average of almost 179,000 people in England and Wales undertook jury service each year. It is estimated that this change would mean up to 6,000 jurors a year, out of the 179,000 average, would be 70 to 75-years-old.
Two Twitter trolls due to be sentenced today after admitting to sending death and rape threats to campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez have been warned by the judge that jail is "almost inevitable".
Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets on January 7, admitting they were among the users of 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages.
Sorley was warned by District Judge Howard Riddle that it is "almost inevitable" that she would receive a jail sentence following her attack on Ms Criado-Perez, who campaigned for a female figure to appear on a Bank of England note.
The judge also told Nimmo, described to the court as a "social recluse" who "rarely leaves his house", that "all options" as to his sentence remained open.
Two people are facing jail today after they admitted sending menacing Twitter messages to a feminist campaigner.
Isabella Sorley, 23 and John Nimmo, 25 used Twitter to threaten 29-year-old student and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez with obscene messages that included death and rape threats following her campaign to ensure a woman featured on British bank notes.
Nimmo also targeted Stella Creasy, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, with the message "The things I cud do to u (smiley face)", calling her "Dumb blond bitch."
The Government has said it is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on settling claims, some of which may have no merit, because it is unable to contest them as the evidence it would wish to produce is so secret that it cannot be revealed in an open court.
She said: "The Bill also aims to close a legal loophole that seriously jeopardises the intelligence relationships between the UK and other countries.
"Unless this loophole is closed, the flow of intelligence from other countries, which according to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, has already been reduced, will slow to a trickle.
"That would be dangerous for the UK as so many of the threats we face are global and we need foreign intelligence to understand and counter them."